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Responsive Web Design: Online Marketing Mobility
It wasn’t so long ago that having a good website was enough to satisfy search engines. In the early 2000s, in what was a simpler time, the Internet was accessible only through desktop computers and laptops, and AOL and AskJeeves were the dominant search tools. Today, the digital age is in full swing, and Google and smart devices together are essentially dictating the web search landscape. For a dental practice heading into 2015, it is imperative that it adapts with a mobile website or perhaps risk vanishing from search engine results. A practice competing to attract new patients cannot allow this to happen.
Navigating a non-mobile website from a mobile device can be a highly frustrating endeavor for customers or potential customers. Most people know what it feels like to try to pinch, zoom, and squint their way through a website’s tiny print while on their mobile phone. Thus, as a result, Google is driving change not simply because it wants to make things difficult for dental practices and other businesses; rather, it is trying to provide the best possible user experience. Because mobile broadband subscriptions, according to a 2014 study by the International Telecommunication Union, now outnumber fixed subscriptions 3 to 1, Google wants—or demands—websites to be mobile-compatible. There are two ways to do this: through standalone mobile sites and with responsive web design.
Recognizing the Device
A standalone mobile site is a copy of an entity’s (eg, dental practice’s) normal site built for display on smart devices. When patients try to access the site from their phone or tablet, they no longer see the practice’s traditional site. Instead, they are redirected to the mobile version, where they will ultimately have a better experience. Google knows this and, therefore, displays mobile sites much higher in mobile search results. This technology has been around for several years, and it still works well. However, responsive web design is an even more effective option.
Responsive web design refers to a website with mobile compatibility hard-coded into the site itself. It is aimed at providing all the benefits of a mobile site without the need for a separate mobile site. Responsive designs recognize the device trying to access them and adjust themselves to fit the device automatically. It does not matter whether the device is a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or desktop; it will conform to fit perfectly, like water in a glass.
Google is very candid about its preference for responsive design, and publicly lists the reasons why on its Webmasters page. The top three are as follows:
• Mobile sites require two URLs, and responsive sites only require one. Having a single URL makes it easier for patients to interact with, share, and link to the site’s content. It also makes it easier for Google’s algorithms to assign the correct indexing properties.
• Mobile sites require a redirection. This means longer loading times (almost twice as long), which ultimately makes for a less user-friendly experience. Responsive design does not require redirection, thus avoiding the problem.
• One URL is easier for Google to handle. With responsive design, each page only needs to be crawled once, which means Google can index the site’s content more efficiently and keep the information fresh.
For the full details, see https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/details, a page that outlines building smartphone-optimized websites.
At the Forefront
These advantages multiply exponentially when a practice begins adding search engine optimization to the rest of its marketing efforts. Of course, mobile websites are still perfectly acceptable. However, for dental practitioners looking to build or increase their web presence, responsive web design can help put the practice at the very forefront of online marketing.
About the Author
Christina Cocco, MBA
Web Presence Advisor, Officite LLC
Downers Grove, Illinois